With a myriad of training methodologies out there, the decision to settle on one can be more confusing than trying to figure out how they came up with combining skiing and target shooting as an Olympic sport.
Nevertheless, at some point you either did or will have to undertake the cumbersome process of narrowing down a sound methodology to base your training around. That, or you'll just wing it and hope that something good happens. But hope is not a strategy for success, so let's say for the sake of argument that you do need to find a training methodology.
What are the components that make up a sound methodology in regards to strength training?
1. A plan for progression -
The end goal for strength athletes is more weight on the bar. Its that simple. A sound training method should set you up for cycles based around the manipulation of volume, intensity, super-compensation, and fatigue management (recovery).
This could mean some form of periodization, or progression (single, double, etc) based around the parameters in training, i.e. adding reps over X number of weeks, adding weight and reps over X number of weeks, etc.
Without a plan for progression the lifter is left to essentially "wing it" week in and week out. Some people do enjoy this, however I've always felt that it's best to have some sort of plan or map for your training cycles in order to gauge progress. If you are a fan of winging it and prefer an RPE (rate of perceived exertion) type of plan then you still have to plan on turning your 9 RPE sets into 7 RPE sets. Without a plan, you're just a vessel sailing adrift in the ocean.
2. Creates strength and muscular balance -
This is the antithesis of a "bro routine", where you bench and curl 3 days a week, and have leg day once a month and do some quarter range of motion leg presses.
Whether you're a powerlifter, strongman, bodybuilder, or crossfitter it behooves you to shore up weak links in your musculature to avoid both injury and stagnation. If a method has you doing 100 reps of total work in your pushing movements over a week, then at minimum you should be doing 100 reps of pulling movements to balance that out. Lower body work should be getting as much or possibly more attention than upperbody work.
The squat, deadlift, and bench press will get you pretty far all by themselves, but often times the cause for a stagnation in a lift is in fact a secondary or tertiary mover in one of those lifts is too weak to continue progressing. Weak rotator cuffs will often hold back a stagnant bench press. Weak rhomboids can be the cause with locking out a deadlift.
It's hard to determine exactly where a lifter may be weak without observing their performance in other movements that place greater emphasis in certain musculature.
For example, someone may be a great squatter but actually have weak quads in comparison to their adductors, glutes, and hips. They may not know it until they try to perform a movement like hack squats, which puts more direct emphasis on the quads, and see how weak they are.
A training methodology, especially for advanced lifters, should be well rounded enough to take these kinds of things into consideration and have a place in the training plan for making sure balance is accounted for.
3. A plan for stagnation or lack of progress -
Whether it be a built in deload, teaching you when to deload, or simply outlining what the macrocycle will be to account for different priorities, accounting for fatigue management and stagnation is a must. You can't train in a highly intensive manner for months and months on end without a break, or a change in training stimulus (see this article for more on accumulating fatigue http://www.strengthsensei.com/fatigue-management-and-the-adaptive-process/). Eventually you will plateau because of fatigue debt, or a lack of new stimulus introduction.
As outlined in the article above, after 4-6 weeks the body does a fine job of adapting to whatever training stress you have been applying to it. At that point stimulus lessens, and fatigue builds. A sound training methodology will account for these periods and allow for or suggest a change in training stimulus.
Also, there should be times when priorities are changed. A strength athlete who has maxed out leverages at a certain bodyweight will need to concentrate on simply getting bigger for a while. The bodybuilder who can't seem to get any bigger will benefit from focusing on strength for a while, so that when he or she resumes hypertrophy work, they will be able to move more weight for more repetitions. That means new growth.
4. Emphasis on big compound movements -
This should go without saying but, I still have to say it. Any sound training method will have the base built around performing lots of barbell and dumbbell work. Unless the trainee is injured and cannot perform those movements because of restrictions, the core of work should be done with barbells and dumbbells. This doesn't mean that some machines or gadgets don't have a place in a training methodology, but if the bulk of the routine is based around those kinds of things then results will be less optimal than if it is based around free weights.
Remember, the body works in synergy, and developing the stabilizing muscles can only happen if you are required to balance the weight. Machines and cables balance the weight for you, thus taking a lot of the smaller stabilizing muscles out of play.
The bulk of any good strength or mass training routine shoulder be things like squats, front squats, barbell presses of various kinds, barbell, and dumbbell rowing.
5. Your buy in -
If I had a dollar for every time I've written this, I'd have at least $147 dollars. I can't emphasize it enough. Even if a training method meets all of the components listed above, you still have to buy in to the method. That means, it has to resonate with you, and make you feel like it is something you can stick with, and progress intelligently on. A big reason why even unbalanced training methods can work for some people is simply because its what they want to do, and are excited about it. This is a huge part of finding success in training.
If you hate a training plan, no matter how logical and sound it is your own person effort applied to it will be sub-par.
Find am overall sound training method that resonates with you as an athlete, bodybuilder, or lifter and then results will be phenomenal.
I could probably list off 50 things that a good training method will implement or account for, however sticking with these five is a great place to start. Too many ideas all at once will only create confusion. Look for a training method that includes these components so that your bases are covered, and progress is consistent.
Want to know more about Paul Carter’s methodology? Get his excellent book Base Building over at Amazon.com or visit his Facebook Page